Are you a parent of a child who is under the age of 18, or even 19, but who is still in high school? If you have one or more children and you are either headed towards a divorce, already divorced from your child’s other parent, or if you are a parent who was never married to your child’s other parent, you will definitely want to learn all about your parental rights under California’s child custody laws.
Your relationship with your children is important. In fact, it’s one of the most important parts of your life and even after your children grow, they will continue to be one of the most important aspects of your life for years to come. So, in the face of a divorce or a paternity issue, the last thing you want is for your relationship with your children to be compromised.
We’ve all heard horror stories about “parental alienation” during and after a divorce, and we’ve heard about cases where the custodial parent took off with the children and moved far away from the noncustodial parent. You certainly don’t want your personal story to be a negative one, especially when it comes to your children.
The good news is that no matter how your relationship is with your ex or your soon-to-be-ex, you can come out of the experience with your relationship with your children persevered, intact, and even possibly better than it was before the divorce or breakup. However, the best way to protect your relationship with your children is to become fully informed of your parental rights under the law.
Usually, a relationship between a parent and their children sours or becomes more distant because the parent did not fully understand their rights and how California’s child custody laws work. The more you understand at the very beginning, the better position you will be in to make the right choices.
Before we explain more about California’s child custody laws, we want you to take a moment to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I want the children to live with me most of the time?
- Do I want to remain in the family home?
- Can I afford to stay in the family home?
- Would it be better if the children lived with the other parent most of the time?
- Can I currently afford to support the children and myself?
- Does my job allow me enough time to take care of the children most of the time?
- If I want to ask for custody, should I get a new job, or change jobs?
- Will I want to move to another county or state in the near future?
- Do I want to move back home to be closer to my family?
- Do I trust the other parent to care for the children most of the time?
- If I want the children, will my spouse or partner put up a fight?
- Do I anticipate child custody and child support to be a contentious issue?
- Will I be asking for spousal and/or child support?
- Will my spouse or partner want me to pay child support?
- Can I afford to take care of the children?
- If I will get custody of the children, will the judge want me to be employed?
- If I date during the divorce, will that affect child custody?
- Should I move out and leave the children with my ex? What are the consequences of moving out?
Now that you have asked yourself these questions, next we want to take a look at what factors affect child custody. Ideally, you and your spouse will not have a problem agreeing on a child custody arrangement. But, if you do have difficulty reaching an agreement, the judge will have to step in and decide for you.
These Factors Affect Child Custody Cases
Whether you are getting a divorce, or trying to change a current child custody order (child custody modification), or if you are going to be a part of a paternity action, you will want to know that the following factors can and do affect child custody cases. More importantly, these are the factors that the judge will be weighing if they have to decide on child custody.
- The age and health of each parent
- One parent’s desire to move away with the children
- Any history of domestic violence or child neglect
- If either parent has a criminal record
- Any history of alcohol or drug abuse
- Each parent’s ability to financially support the children
- Each parent’s emotional and financial stability
- The children’s preference
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable and loving home
- Which parent the child has spent more time with
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s ties to their school, extended family, and community
Overall, the goal of the family law judge is to step back, take a look at the totality of the circumstances and make a non-biased decision based on the best interests of the child.
Fathers often wonder, “Does the judge automatically give preference to the child’s mother like judges did in the 1990s and earlier?” No, family court judges do not give preferences to the mothers like they did in the past.
Since there are so many households these days with two parents that are working or with stay-at-home fathers, the courts recognize that fathers should be given equal consideration and that it’s no longer realistic to automatically assume the mother is better suited to be awarded primary physical custody of the children.
We hope this above information helps. If you are headed for a divorce, or if you need assistance with a child custody matter that is not directly related to a pending divorce action, we urge you to contact our firm for a free case evaluation with a Los Angeles child custody attorney.